NFL: The key factors for each Wildcard winner this postseason

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Carolina Panthers’ Defense

After Week 7 of the season, the Panthers’ defense had allowed the sixth-most amount of yards in the NFL, but steadily improved to sit among the league’s best 10 by the time Wildcard Weekend arrived.

Their gentle upward curve continued in their 27-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium, where two men epitomised the unit’s desire to impose itself on the opposition.

Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly finished the game with seven and 10 tackles respectively, with the latter adding one interception in the fourth quarter before aiding another.

Continued improvement will be needed if the team are to beat the Seattle Seahawks at 4/1 odds next.

Baltimore Ravens’ Offensive Line

With a shock victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens booked a date with the New England Patriots in the Divisional round, where they are 5/2 to win.

The Steelers were the regular season’s best offense, in terms of yards gained, but were halted with force against the Ravens, who sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times, forced one fumble and made two interceptions.

Against the Patriots, another vaunted offense, they will need similar production.

Tony Romo

The Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback is a divisive figure around the league, a reputation he doesn’t help with some bonehead plays at important times, especially during the postseason.

But as the 12-season veteran threw for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his side’s 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions, Romo proved he has both the ability and poise to guide the Cowboys offense through tight games.

The Green Bay Packers lie in wait, priced as 10/29 favourites for the win.

Adam Vinatieri

Prince Charles divorced Diana in the same year that Vinatieri, the Indianapolis Colts’ kicker, made his NFL debut. He went on to make his name as a clutch kicker, helping the New England Patriots to claim three Super Bowl titles.

At 42, he is the oldest player in the NFL but remains the best kicker in the sport – he missed his first field goal of the season in the final week.

Should the Colts, 5/2 to beat the Denver Broncos next, find themselves in tight spots this postseason, having Vinatieri available to knock over field goals at will is a serious weapon.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.